[Editor’s Note: This article was rejected by 45 different magazines, periodicals, and journals across the political spectrum: Far left, left, center, unaffiliated, right, far right, and libertarian.]
Trump is a monstrous choice for president. Monstrous. He’s a demagogue with a clear bent to authoritarianism. He’s completely politically inexperienced and has no clear idea what constitutes successful, appropriate, or even legal behavior for an elected official. He has repeatedly proven himself to be virtually incoherent on foreign policy, economics, diplomacy, and the military. His only true assets are self-promotion, juvenile tweets, and belittling his enemies. He’s barely qualified to be president of anything, especially anything with a military. It goes without saying, then, that essentially no one in their right mind should want him as President of the United States of America. The problem, however, is that America is no longer in its right mind. Major political cancers are driving it to madness.
But what would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize—and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. The Republican Party would have to get back on the rails, and do so quickly, to reclaim a stable position in American politics. On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place. And underlying it all rests the question of influence and utility of big money in American politics. That is, after all, largely how we got here in the first place, with astroturfed populism combined with huge corporate campaign donations for political tools and extremists short-sightedly planting most of the seeds for these newer, louder issues.
Of these cancers, perhaps the most significant is today’s mainline Republican Party, which is best described as being hyper-right and utterly recalcitrant (firmer critics describe it as obstructionist and seditious). Given the GOP’s grotesquely partisan behavior during the entire tenure of Obama’s two terms in office, it hardly needs detailing that the Republican flight from Eisenhower conservatism to the borderline insane far-far-Right bunker it has backed itself into is one of the greatest domestic political challenges that America currently faces.
Trump’s shocking and meteoric rise in the Republican primaries has already put the GOP house in shambles, however, and the metaphor is almost too sweet to pass up. Over the past two decades, and especially the last eight years, the Republican Party has allowed ideological corruption to rot its once stable, corporate structure from within, and meanwhile a constant gale of far-Right pressure has shoved upon the party from at least two sides, the religious Right and the anti-government Tea Party and its sympathizers. Even an institution as old and robust as the Party of Lincoln is not sustainable against these forces, and so the house of GOP condemned itself. Then, in walks a take-no-prisoners real-estate mogul, declares the entire enterprise a loss, and becomes the very wrecking ball that smashes it to pieces.
A second cancer is the far-Right’s mirror image: the shrieking, victimhood-obsessed culture on the far Left. Trump’s rise isn’t just explained by the failure of the GOP to get its house in order, conduct responsible politics, or find a single qualified candidate to run for the office. Trump’s rise follows directly from backlash to two words: political correctness. These two words are two of Trump’s favorites, and not arbitrarily. It is almost impossible to find a Trump supporter who doesn’t back him explicitly because of his unflinching, dismissive, even hostile stance against political correctness. “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Vote Trump!” could be a campaign bumper sticker. Should that not be convincing enough, cinching the case was the recent race-to-the-bottom sparring match between Trump and former GOP hopeful Ted Cruz, over which of them is to be deplored for being “more PC” than the other.
The Politically Correct Left is a cancer, too. It diagnoses societal symptoms far too simplistically and, largely just by calling them bigots, smears anyone who questions their moral pronouncements. Their assessment possesses no more nuance than accusing those on the Right of holding policy positions because they’re bigots: racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and anything else -phobic or -ist that their imaginations allow. This impolitic attitude and the concomitant name-calling prevent honest discourse about pressing issues, such as immigration policy, health care, and the global concerns orbiting around Islamist terrorism. The Politically Correct Left cannot even hear the need for such conversations, though, over the sound of its bellowing accusations of bigotry. Trump bulldozes their objections and couldn’t care less. Certainly, his policy proposals on these issues are both practically and morally repellent, but democracy demands the national-level conversation he’s forcing.
It must be noted that on almost no topic is the love of Trump’s anti-PC stand more obvious than that of radical Islam’s role in current global affairs. It doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest how clumsily he handles the topic. His supporters still lap it up. Why? The fact that our current political elites—be it for good reasons or bad—are obviously not speaking honestly about the connections between Islam and Islamism is a highly malignant lobe of the PC cancer. Trump’s recommended medicine seems hardly more sophisticated than taking a relatively dull hatchet to the afflicted, but at least he’s calling for an operation.
These are the most egregious cancers eating the American body politic from the inside. Yet there are more. To name just one, campaign finance reform is the closest thing to a topical issue that Trump’s campaigning efforts represents. The billionaire runs not just on a platform of making fun of the dilapidated GOP and PC children but, nominally, on being self-funded. Trump sells himself successfully to his disenfranchised, patriotic base as the very image of campaign finance reform, something they seem not to understand but hate all the more for it. And make no mistake, campaign finance reform is a serious issue that needs serious attention. It is, after all, the same issue that propelled Bernie Sanders to be the darling of the progressive Left. In showing that they are viable, even against big money, Trump and Sanders also prove just how desperately Americans need—and democracy demands—campaign finance reform.
Now — and not even needing the “as liberals” qualifier — we do not want to vote for Trump. However, we have to admit that even the notion of a President Donald J. Trump makes an utter mockery of the foundations upon which these political troubles stand, and so he may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.
Trained up on the canvas-covered platforms of professional wrestling rings, Trump does almost nothing better than make a mockery of things, and in this case of the very habits and institutions that have proved most poisonous to American politics this century. He also, like any effective demagogue, commands tremendous public influence, thereby stoking and wielding considerable public opinion against his enemies. Perverse as it sounds, the Trump brand of political mockery might be just what this nation needs most right now.
These problems truly are cancers to our democracy, and a President Trump might be potent, if rough, medicine. There’s little question that his incompetence, inexperience, impetuousness, and incivility would cripple both the effectiveness and reputation of American politics for as long as he held office; and the embarrassment to the American citizens, if it were to elect him, would be almost unbearable. Our relationships with many, if not most, other countries would deteriorate, our economy would struggle (if it didn’t crash outright), and many of our problems would either multiply or fester. Such pains, though, may be the metaphorical equivalent of what chemotherapy does to its unfortunate patients. The question to our minds, then, isn’t whether a Trump presidency would be bad for America—it unquestionably would—but whether America might survive the medicine and come out better for the noxious treatment.
We think it may. The United States is a carefully constructed democratic republic with divided powers, and a terrible president, while coming at a serious cost, will prove limited in the scope of his capabilities. Congress is very unlikely to back much of what Trump proposes, for instance, and they just spent eight years demonstrating that if only half of our elected legislators have such a mind, they can grind American politics largely to a halt. Even if he is able to unduly pressure Congress, Trump would still have the Supreme Court to reckon with, and it would rarely go in his favor even were he able to stack the deck slightly to his favor by placing a few justices. Some in the US Military have already indicated that it is unlikely to follow his orders as Commander in Chief, if they are unconscionable or outright war crimes (a concept that Trump, in all his bluster, clearly doesn’t understand). In all likelihood, the force of the laws and traditions of the United States will be strong enough to render Trump largely impotent as president.
Is it a risky bet? Absolutely. A Trump presidency cannot be seen in a more flattering light than an attempt to drink a little chemo, get sick, and kill a handful of political cancers at once. Is it flirtation with fire? Yes. The whole gambit rests upon the horror of a Trump presidency creating a political backlash that repairs our most damaged institutions. Are we going to vote for Trump? No. No one should. What we’ve written constitutes the only reasonable case for supporting Trump, and it’s weak. That there’s even such an argument to be made, though, tells us a great deal about what’s going wrong in our society.
Peter Boghossian is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University and an affiliated faculty member at Oregon Health Science University in the Division of General Internal Medicine. He is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. Follow him on Twitter: @peterboghossian.